Heather Granato, VP of content at Informa Markets, discusses the latest consumer trend of holistic health and wellbeing and how food and beverage manufacturers can benefit from offering a range of products that target multiple health concerns.
The pandemic continues to challenge consumers’ understanding of what ‘health’ means to them; it triggered an increased focus on personal wellness and brought personal health to the fore like never before.
Running parallel to this, more people are starting to understand how the different parts and systems of the body are interconnected – not just physical areas such as gut health, but also mental wellbeing and emotional health too.
This has led to many consumers taking an increasingly proactive approach, looking for ways to improve their health across multiple areas for an overarching wellness goal – so-called holistic health.
Interconnected, holistic health – we really are what we eat
Many people now associate their food choices with their health: ‘If I eat well, I feel good’.
Some are going further still and want to augment their overall health goals via nutrition – for example, solutions that aid sleep can help people be more focused and, in turn, have more energy to be more active.
While the desire for specific nutrition products isn’t new, these go deeper, creating multi-layered, virtuous cycles that span several health areas and highlight the interconnectedness of physical, mental and emotional wellness.
As consumers tailor their personal experiences and gather more data, they’re making informed decisions around their diet patterns and activity – getting and staying active as part of a healthy lifestyle, and its positive effects. Essentially, instead of a focus on a single ‘condition’ or symptom, there’s a greater move toward integrative, preventive and holistic health actions.
The central role of the gut in overall health
Advancements in science continue to highlight the gut microbiome’s influence on various, broader strands of health.
The link between the gut and immune health is perhaps the best-known example of this, yet other health areas are now being linked to it, including brain health, weight and obesity, diabetes, and some skin conditions, as we further our understanding of the microbiome and its impact upon our overall health.
Attention to the gut microbiome can create opportunities for gut health solutions that are more holistic too, targeting areas of health that reach beyond immediate digestive health concerns, such as heartburn, stomach cramps and bloating.
In future, it’s likely we’ll see opportunities for a wider range of health claims to be linked to the gut, through the microbiome, in a similar way to the established gut-immune system benefiting probiotic drinks.
Consumers are asking ‘what else can I do’?
While the pandemic caused immediate changes in consumer concerns and outlooks, the lasting impact is many people now think of health in terms of maintenance and prevention, rather than just focusing on addressing a problem.
Working to a ‘healthy equilibrium’ affords brands the opportunity to support a preventive, long-term approach to health – moving from ‘cure’ to prevention.
This new outlook goes beyond more traditional health areas of focus. Heart health is now more aligned with respiratory function, while eye health isn’t just age-related but a consideration to be addressed due to increased blue light exposure from more time spent online, for example, from remote working.
The blurring of lines – nutrition meets convenience
All this is driving demand for functional and fortified food and drink products as consumers seek out products for their desired, broader health benefits, that often blur the boundaries between traditional grocery items and medicine.
Whether it’s incorporating medicinal benefits through food, foodification of supplements, or using the latest medicinal herb, innovation in convenience-focused brands are trying to bring nutrition back to the category.
With a renewed focus on health and wellness, the floor is open to a more integrated, holistic approach to health. Brands that take the lead are looking ahead to combine new ideas in unconventional ways, leading to greater appeal and more authentic connections with consumers and their health goals.
FoodBev Media will be attending this year’s Vitafoods Europe 2022 (2-13 May online, 10-12 May in Geneva), where we hope to see a range of functional ingredients and products that aim to address a wealth of health issues.
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